I’ve been thinking about social media and business, and in particular what sorts of businesses it works best for. The short answer is that if used correctly it can work for all sizes and types of businesses, but from my experience it’s not always a level playing field. Rather than try and explain this in words I thought I simple diagram would work best…
One Man Bands (1 main person with a couple of people helping)
As you can see above it works especially well for small businesses. It usually works well because the person doing the social media is the person who founded the business and therefore the person with the most passion for the business. There is very often little or no marketing budget in a small business which is why the owner of the business embraces social media with such gusto. Often carrying out the activity in their spare time or the evenings and having a free reign to say pretty much anything and push the envelope with their own business gives small businesses a great advantage.
SMEs (Between 1 and 10 people)
This is the group that in my opinion struggle the most with social media. It’s not to say that there are not lots of success stories because there are but there are far more failures out there. The problem is often resource. Most companies of this size are incredibly busy with jobs allocated to team members who have little spare time. Often the responsibility for social media will be spread between several people meaning that it often gets neglected by them all. The pressure in terms of getting sales through social media and justifying it as a marketing channel that should be allocated time and financial resources are often too much and it often gets abandoned very quickly as a channel. Some SMEs will try and outsource their social media activity but more often than not they have unrealistic expectations of what it can achieve for them. It’s hard to make social media work effectively for businesses of this size and to do so you need patience, dedicated resource and realistic goals around what it can help your business achieve.
Brands (Large businesses with 50+ staff)
Most brands are at least thinking about social media at this stage if they have not already started. They have some challenges including internal politics, fear of exposing their brand online and resourcing to deal with but they also have a lot of big advantages including money and the ability to bring external help in to help them get started in social media. Although it often takes brands a while to get limbered up and finally engage in social media the reality is that when they do they usually have the smarts and the resources to get up and running quite quickly. With the right advice it’s not hard for brands to get going in social media but the challenge they face is the consistency over long periods of time with people coming and going and social media finding it’s right home within large organizations. The fact that large brands don’t always have to make the hard sell through social media like smaller companies try to is also a huge advantage for them.